ESPN commentator Derek Rae on why the 'Wee Gers' stole the show on Sunday.
First of all, a confession. Until this past weekend on commentary duty, I had never paid a visit to the fine walled town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Yes, I have passed through many times on the East coast mainline but does that count?
Part of a commentator's responsibility when preparing for a live televised match, particularly in an unfamiliar location, is to get a feel for the town, and to find out what makes it tick. In the case of Berwick, I was especially curious. An English settlement situated 2.5 miles from the border yet housing a football team that has competed for the bulk of its history within the Scottish football structure.
Berwick Rangers' Fraser McLaren celebrates his goal. © Getty Images
Some locals sounded profoundly Northumbrian to my ear. Others seemed to speak with an accent that would not be out of place up the coast and across the 'frontier' in Eyemouth, a small Scottish town with a long standing reputation for the serving the best fish and chips for miles around. There's a kind of split identity in border country that keeps life interesting.
If Berwickers perhaps understandably find themselves oscillating between two nations almost on a daily basis, it's much the same for the footballers who pull on the iconic black and gold shirt.
For most Berwick Rangers players, the only time they play on English soil is on match days themselves. Training sessions under manager Ian Little take place in Prestonpans, the site of a famous 1745 battle just to the east of Edinburgh. It's no accident then that enthusiastic lads from the capital are to be found in abundance when you scour the Berwick squad. Former Hibernian players are plentiful given the proximity to the Hibs training centre at East Mains.
Part time footballers aren't supposed to be able to compete with seasoned, well rewarded professionals like Fran Sandaza, Ian Black, Carlos Bocanegra and Emilson Cribari. What jumped out at anyone who watched Sunday's game with us on ESPN, was that the 'Wee Gers' outplayed and outthought their opponents for long periods and could easily have won the game.
Whereas (the visiting) Rangers looked plodding and cumbersome, Berwick went about their business with a spark and vitality. This was their big day in the spotlight and they were determined to show they could pass the ball and do themselves justice.
Ian Little told me that on the morning of the game. I have heard it from many a manager but he was true to his word. Youngsters Phil Addison and Darren Lavery showed the sort of vision and movement that indicates a bright future. Lee Currie, like Addison, from the Hibernian school, should probably have been sent off early on for a horrendous tackle on Black. Otherwise, Currie was composed and creative.
Kevin McDonald and Steven Notman never stopped looking for openings. Neil Janczyk was - well Neil Janczyk - a good, tidy experienced professional who served his apprenticeship at Hearts.
The defence, organized by the excellent Chris Townsley and Dougie Brydon together with Dean Hoskins, were so solid, the exotically named Edinburgh born goalkeeper Youssef Bejaoui had little to do.
I particularly enjoyed the performance of the fearless Dene Droudge at right back. The 23-year old has bounced back from a knee injury and rejection from Cowdenbeath. In only his second game for Berwick, he kept young Lewis MacLeod quiet and provided an intriguing outlet going forward on the right.
The name on everyone's lips after the match though was super sub Fraser McLaren. The quicksilver striker embarrassed Bocanegra and Cribari with his well timed runs. McLaren took his goal with the authority of a striker who could play at a considerably higher level. He had the misfortune of being made redundant by Gretna when they went out of business in 2008.
It's not lost on third division players that they have a new showcase this season: live television. Never before have McLaren and his teammates had a better opportunity to reach a wider audience. If that means a move to a second or first division team, fair play.
Not even the fact Townsley's late goal was harshly disallowed, could undermine the feeling in the Berwick camp. They had done their bit for the supporters and the town.
You'll have gathered that I thoroughly enjoyed the Shielfield experience. Commentating on Sunday meant working from a makeshift position on the roof of the main stand. From up there on a glorious day, the ground looked magnificent. The much loved 'Ducket' enclosure on the opposite side, was packed to the gunwales with visiting fans.
Sometimes we are prone to look one dimensionally at Berwick Rangers. Yes, their 1967 Cup win against the other Rangers will always be remembered as the biggest Scottish Cup upset of them all and rightly so. On Sunday it was a privilege to watch the modern day Berwick heroes write their own chapter in club history.